[Satellite TODAY Insider 04-12-12] The governments of the United Kingdom and Japan have signed an agreement to collaborate on space research, technology developments and potential commercial opportunities that could inject billions of dollars into the space industries of both countries, the U.K. Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts announced April 11.
The agreement will target key areas for collaboration, including Earth observation technology, such as the NovaSAR program or the Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC) run by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL). The DMC program, which is a collaborative project between SSTL and the U.K. Space Agency, provided data services to assist the Japanese government with rescue efforts and damage assessment in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Willetts said the agreement could drive growth by opening up opportunities for both the U.K.’s space companies and leading research organizations. “The U.K. space industry is a true success story, employing tens of thousands of highly skilled people and contributing around £7.5 billion ($11.9 billion) to the economy annually,” Willetts said in a statement. “However, space is a global market and the United Kingdom’s success is dependent on international collaboration, so it’s vital we forge strong partnerships with countries like Japan that lead the way in technology.”
The U.K. government also hopes that the agreement helps the nation to reach its ambitious targets to grow its share of the world space market to 10 percent by 2030. The initiative is part of the U.K. government’s overall effort in conjunction with the U.K. Space Agency and the International Space Innovation Center in Oxfordshire to increase the commercially availability of satellite data. The investment forms the core part of the U.K. Space Agency’s National Space Technology Program (NSTP), which has injected approximately $15 million into the nation’s space industry to help exploit growth opportunities and improve the domestic technology capabilities.
Besides the Earth observation enhancement project, Willetts highlighted four potential collaborative projects as a result of the agreement with Japan. The partnership could begin the development of a next generation telecommunications satellite platform that features a mechanical platform architecture for future European telecommunications satellites in the 3- to 6-ton range. “This project would also prepare U.K. companies to take leading roles in future European Space Agency programs to develop telecommunication space technologies,” said Willetts.
The partnership could also lead to the development of a rugged and lightweight portable Ka-Band satcom terminal to provide mobile access to the latest generation of high bandwidth satellite broadband services. Finally, the deal could pave the way for the planned U.K. NovaSAR Synthetic aperture radar mission by accelerating the technology development of an S-Band synthetic aperture radar instrument.